Ninety thousand hours: That’s how much time the average person spends at work in his or her lifetime. Assuming that most of these hours are spent with colleagues, having a strong support system at the office is an absolute necessity in making this time enjoyable. You need a team of allies, mentors, mentees, and sponsors who will lift you up, help you out, and sometimes even give you a kick in the backside—a diverse group who will join in celebrating your successes. And if you’re in the client services industry like me, you’ll often find that your “work friends” become your “real friends” for life (my husband and I celebrated our wedding day with several close colleagues and clients by our side).
Of course, making friends at a new job is much easier said than done, so here are four key tips to help you make a core group of work friends, and make them count:
1. Go in with the assumption that people will like you
Cliché as it may sound, you only get one chance at a first impression, and physical cues often dictate how others perceive you. Fair or not, we do judge books by their covers. If you creep into the office with a timid and anxious demeanor, people will be timid and anxious to engage with you. However, if you walk in with a smile on your face and a hand outstretched, confident in the fact that you’re a warm and friendly person, people will gravitate toward you. I firmly believe we get what we give, so be the kind of person you’d want to be friends with.
2. Prepare to drink too much coffee or tea
In your first week (or even before you start), ask your manager who you should be meeting at the company, and be sure to get some face time with these key folks over tea, coffee, and the like. Make it your goal to meet five new people each day, and by the end of the week, you’ll have 25 new connections. When I first started in my role as CEO of Maxus U.K., I was new to the agency, so I made it a point to meet everyone in the office and have one-on-one time with as many of my colleagues as possible. While I quickly realized I needed to find a replacement for caffeine, I also learned the power of being a good listener—these meetings are a time to learn about people’s interests and their areas of expertise, and understand how best you can complement those with your skills and perspectives.
3. Demonstrate your worth
Listen hard, put your hand up, and always look for ways to bring value and results to your organization. Pitch in on a new project, volunteer to help plan the Christmas party, or join a committee or an industry-wide organization. You’ll expose yourself to different leadership styles and showcase your proactivity. The benefit of being new is that you can use your fresh, outsider perspective to bring new ways of thinking to “old” challenges. In an effort to expand my network and learn from like-minded professionals in the industry, I joined Women in Advertising and Communications of London in June 2010, and I cannot tell you how many connections, ideas, and wonderful friends I’ve developed since—both as a member and as the group’s president.
4. Stay in touch
Once you’ve forged these new connections, you—or your connections—may move away, get new jobs, etc. The key is to keep them in your network and not just float away. Stay in touch and follow up so you can build relationships and trust over time. In my first job, I set calendar reminders to connect with each person I’d met with a month later, seeking their advice, expertise, or just another cup of tea. If you take the lead on creating new connections, people will soon recognize that you’re a colleague—and a friend—they can count on.